Saturday, March 17, 2012

Exploration of Experiences and Psychological Health of Same-sex Attracted Latter-day Saints

Selections from "Exploration of Experiences and Psychological Health of Same-sex Attracted Latter-day Saints," a Utah State University Research Project based on a survey of 1,635 LGBTQ Latter-day Saints.

Same-Sex Attraction Development
  • Average age felt "different": 9.6
  • Average age "difference" was identified as sexual: 13.9
  • Average age experienced 1st SS romantic or sexual experience: 19.8
  • Average age 1st told someone of SSA: 22.5
  • Average age labeled self as LGBT: 24.2
  • 43% mostly "in closet" w/ friends, family, etc.
About 50% of participants described their communities and families as "closed or non-supportive" of LGBTQ individuals. Only 3-4% described their families and communities as "very open or supportive."

Sixty-five percent of participants sought to change or alter their sexual orientation through a number of different strategies.  Of those who attempted sexual orientation change, 76% engaged in efforts at greater religious faith and behavior (e.g., prayer, church attendance, scripture reading).  Individual efforts to change same sex attraction included reading books, avoidance, or controlling thoughts. Thirty five percent engaged in psychotherapeutic counseling to change sexual orientation, and 12% sought group therapy.  With respect to the efficacy of therapeutic counseling, therapeutic approaches that were most beneficial were those that were non-directive (the therapist did not impose a specific model or set of goals on a client), or those that helped clients understand and accept their homosexual orientation. [Of 501 individuals who worked with a therapist in an attempt to change their orientation, 467 (a 93%) declared the approach ineffective, moderately harmful, or severely harmful.]

Virtually  all (94%) of the study participants were baptized as members of the LDS church.  The percentages who: were endowed in the temple (64%), served missions (53%), have served in adult leadership positions (36%), and served in bishoprics (11%) indicate strong commitment levels to the LDS church through early adulthood for most participants.

A sizable portion of study participants (29%) still actively participate in LDS church activities on a regular basis (at least monthly).  Notwithstanding, the majority of participants no longer participate in church activities.  When asked about the church attended most frequently, 49% selected the LDS church, with the next closest churches listed as Episcopalian (2%) and Unitarian Universalist (2%).

Participants endorsed a range of emotions regarding the LDS church, ranging from sorrowful (55%) mistrusting (44%) and hurt/damaged (38%) to neutral (25%) and committed/supportive (22%).  Those who felt angry/hostile towards the LDS church represented the smallest percentage (19%)

Before acknowledging their SSA, participants overwhelmingly believed in God (90%), Jesus Christ (86%), Joseph Smith as a prophet of God (78%) and the Book of Mormon as scripture (78%).  Acknowledging  same-sex attraction has led to a decrease in these beliefs across the board, with belief in Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon experiencing the largest declines (from 78% to 36% for both) .  Sixty-nine percent of participants still believe in God, while about half (52%) still believe in Jesus Christ.

A little about study participants:
  • 75% were male and 9% were non-white.
  • Participants were widely distributed geographically:  all US states and 22 other countries are represented.
  • 34% were college graduates and an additional 29% earned professional or graduate degrees
  • 42% of respondents are single, 35% maintain committed same-sex relationships, 16% are married heterosexually,
  • 4% are divorced, and 3% reported another relationship status.
  • 31% were married heterosexually at some point, 29% are parents